Your networks play a vital role in transmitting information from one end of your IT environment to the other. With networks becoming more complex worldwide, gaining proper visibility into all network components has become quite a challenge. In this scenario, how do you keep track of all aspects of your network? Network documentation is the answer you might be looking for.
In this blog, we will explore the different aspects of network documentation and how you can document your network information correctly.
What is network documentation?
Network documentation refers to the process of documenting all the hardware, software and connections associated with a network. By capturing all the important information related to a network, you can ensure the smooth functioning of your network. Network documentation provides key insights into the performance of a network and helps administrators troubleshoot issues by identifying their root causes.
If you run an organization with a complex network, your network documentation should include device types, configurations, software versions, updates, licensing agreements, etc. The methods used by organizations to document their network may vary significantly based on network complexity and organizational requirements.
What is the importance of network documentation?
Networks are getting more complex than ever in today’s digital world. A visual representation of a network is extremely critical to ensure its smooth performance. Proper documentation helps you identify the issues in your network and rectify them before they can wreak havoc on your entire IT infrastructure.
Also, network documentation is important when you are scaling up. When expanding, you are likely to add new users to your organization, which translates to more endpoints, servers, routers, etc. With proper network documentation, you can ensure consistency, reduce the time required for expansion, prevent information loss and eliminate security issues.
Another key importance of network documentation is its ability to promote knowledge transfer. Just one or two members of an IT team typically have full network knowledge. If they leave the company, your new hires will be stuck wasting a lot of time trying to understand the network. If you have proper network documentation, you can onboard your new hires instantly and save a lot of money caused by inefficiency.
What should be included in network documentation?
The primary goal of network documentation is to provide knowledge about the entire network to IT administrators and technicians. Due to that, your documentation should be comprehensive and include all the key elements of the network. Your administrators should be able to make sound decisions based on the information they gain from the network documentation.
Here is a list of all the key elements you must include in your documentation:
This part of network documentation captures all the devices connected to the network. It includes details about endpoints, workstations, servers, switches, routers, firewalls, etc. The following information should be documented about the devices in your network.
- What is the operating system, manufacturer, serial number, model, etc.?
- Is the device physical, virtual or hybrid?
- How are the devices connected to the network?
- Do we have a backup of all the device information?
- Is there a password required to access the device?
- Who are the users that can access the device?
Network servers and addresses
Your network servers give you an idea of your data center and how they are organized. A server rack diagram will accurately represent your server connections and help you easily identify the source of any issues. Besides the server names and configurations, you should also include the IP and MAC addresses of all the devices in your network.
Your network documentation should include all the connections made to various parts of your network. It will come in handy when you are diagnosing problems in your network. Most importantly, a visual representation of this information will provide you with the right physical location of various devices in your network.
You can visualize various aspects of a network as diagrams. You can find different types of diagrams in a network. Below is a list of the most common ones.
- Network topology: This visually represents how various devices are connected. These diagrams help you establish the relationship between various devices. Network topology aims to identify issues quickly and troubleshoot them with minimal downtime.
- Cloud architecture: This diagram helps you understand various components of your cloud architecture. Besides understanding your current cloud infrastructure, you can use this diagram to plan your future expansion.
- Server rack: You can use this diagram to check how your devices are connected to the server. This diagram shows the organization of all the components in your server rack, including network switches, firewalls, power strips, routers, etc.
- Wi-Fi chart: You can use this diagram to identify the structure of your wireless network. It includes all the routers, switches and servers in your wireless network.
Active directory domain
Your active directory contains key information regarding your domains, users and objects. Documenting your active directory is not just about documenting this information. Rather, it involves details such as the names of your domains, site structure, naming conventions, server hierarchy and external thrusts.
Network recovery plan
Organizations cannot afford network failure in today’s world of complex networks and cutthroat competition. You need a recovery plan when something inevitably goes wrong. A properly documented recovery plan will guide your staff on what to do when a failure occurs. Your network recovery plan should include the following:
- Who you should contact in case of a failure?
- What you should do if the technician is not available that day
- How to protect your data from a hardware failure
- Where the backup data is located
- What you should do with the backup data
- What the business impact will be in case of network failure
What are the benefits of network documentation?
While documentation may seem overwhelming and may involve quite a few tasks, the host of benefits it offers often outweighs the costs associated with it. Here is a list of benefits you can experience with network documentation:
Proper documentation will give you better visibility into your network infrastructure. Just like a well-crafted map gives you directions to a place, network documentation will provide you with all the key information about your network. This visibility and understanding will be useful when you have to troubleshoot issues in your network.
When you have better visibility and access to all key information about your network, you can mitigate various network risks significantly. For instance, if there is an unexpected network outage, your employees can access the standard operating procedures on what actions they should take. As a result, you can minimize your downtime and keep your business up and running.
With proper documentation, your users can instantly access all vital information and communicate any changes in real time. This removes all the bottlenecks in internal communications and ensures streamlined operations.
Knowledge building and retention
Many organizations suffer when they face employee turnover. Besides losing valuable employees, they also risk losing valuable organizational knowledge. You can avoid that with robust documentation. Network documentation is all about capturing knowledge about your network and retaining it for future use.
Another key benefit of knowledge retention is improved onboarding. Having all network information properly documented lets you easily share it with your new hires rather than wasting valuable resources on lengthy onboarding. Moreover, this helps your new hires gain knowledge quickly and become productive without wasting too much time.
Speedy problem resolution
With robust network documentation, your administrators can easily identify problem areas in your network and decide which one to solve first. When you know where the problem is, you can troubleshoot the issues faster and prevent critical system failure. In complex networks, even little things matter; these details are always easy to miss when shooting in the dark. With access to the right information, you can easily resolve complicated issues and ensure maximum uptime.
When you can resolve issues faster and streamline your operations, you can automatically reduce the expenses caused by poor efficiency. For instance, if you have unutilized assets in your network, you can easily identify them and put them to proper use (or deprecate them). Also, network documentation will help you with network expansion planning and optimize the budget for new devices. In the long run, all these benefits can contribute greatly to cost efficiency.
How do you document a network?
Creating your network documentation for the first time can be quite challenging due to the vast amount of information that has to be documented. However, you can develop a solid strategy to ensure safe network documentation and provide easy access to critical information. Here’s a list of best practices to help you correctly document your network.
- Decide what to document: The first step is knowing what to document. You don’t want to record unwanted stuff and clutter your valid information. Administrators should brainstorm with their IT team to narrow the list of things to document in a network.
- Create a network documentation policy: You need a firm documentation policy to provide guidelines on how to go about the documentation process. For instance, you can outline the roles and responsibilities of key personnel involved in documentation. A robust policy improves clarity on the process, increases transparency and ensures accountability.
- Categorize content based on related items: The next big step involves providing a structure to documentation. You must organize your information based on categories and group related items together. It ensures effective knowledge management and easy retrieval of all documented information.
- Create backups: Creating backups is extremely important for all kinds of documentation. You must create a backup schedule to consistently monitor your backups. In addition to backing up your information, you can create a description of the backups to help your team identify them whenever required.
- Make documentation an ongoing practice: Network documentation is not a one-and-done practice. You must do it regularly without fail. If you manage a complex network, it is not an easy job to do it manually. You need a proper documentation tool to automate the process and ensure effective knowledge management.
What is network documentation software?
The complex networks of today’s IT environments cannot be documented manually. You need a robust documentation tool that automates the process and integrates with other IT management tools. Your documentation tool should come with powerful network documentation capabilities and should take inventory of your network infrastructure.
Your network documentation solution should have powerful visualization capabilities by offering network topology maps and diagrams. Most importantly, it should provide a single source of truth by unifying information from multiple platforms and providing a centralized view of all the information. A network documentation solution with these capabilities can make network documentation a breeze.
Document your network with IT Glue
IT Glue is the gold standard for IT documentation, and it comes with powerful features to ensure seamless network discovery, diagramming and documentation. IT Glue’s Network Glue solution has robust features that can document your entire network. IT Glue also has out-of-the-box documentation templates that can automate your network documentation process.
IT Glue’s SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine, all fully integrated and linked with all your network documentation.
To know more about how IT Glue can help with network diagramming,